I keep hearing people throw around the B word. BUDGET.
I used to do this thing called budget. But we broke up. And now we can’t even be friends.
You see, Perform to Serve, Enlisted Review Boards, Downsizing … it’s all in effect to save money, do more with less and satisfy those in congress and other places who think the military is an overpriced sorority. I get it. It’s dead wrong. But I get it. We are throwing out insanely good people. But I get it.
Perception is reality. And the perception is that the military spends a crap load of money on a load of crap. That crap saves lives, finds and kills Bin Laden, makes land, air and sea safe for travel, makes it possible for you to speak your mind freely, even when you use that right to down talk the military. However, to the untrained eye, it may indeed look like loads of crap, and I think I know why.
Recently at a huge military symposium the new Chief of Naval Operations spoke and afterward allowed Sailors and civilians the opportunity to ask questions. He coined each person that asked a question. Once people noticed he was doing this the line for asking questions continued to grow, yet the relevance and importance of the question began to decline severely. It was obvious, people wanted that challenge coin more than they wanted an answer to their question.
There were some good questions regarding Perform to Serve and budget cuts. There were also some big picture questions regarding the future of the Navy. But for the most part questions were misdirected and often misguided.
Near the end of the line was a petty officer second class. I waited with baited breath to hear what this girl was going to throw out there. As it turns out the CNO had to cut off questions before it was her turn. He gave everyone in line a coin anyway, and exited the stage. But I couldn’t let it end like that. I searched out that petty officer on a break and I asked her point blank what she had planned to ask the CNO.
She said, “well, I’m hearing them talk about PTS and ERBs and budget cuts. I’m watching my friend who has three children get kicked out of the Navy after years and years of dedicated service and sacrifice. My husband’s best friend lost his wife due to his back-to-back deployments and now could lose the very career he sacrificed everything to keep.”
She continued: “I don’t know the ins and outs of it all, but I was hoping the CNO could tell me why we are spending thousands on uniforms we are barely allowed to wear, spending thousands on change of command ceremonies that no one but the members of our commands care about, spending thousands on even these challenge coins that people jumped in line to receive, instead of investing in my husband’s best friend.”
I just stood there. I mean, what could I say? Part of me was actually glad she didn’t make it to the front of the line in time. And the other part of me was ashamed of that part.